November 2009 Archives

The Irreplaceable Ted Sizer

Note: This column was scheduled to appear on Nov. 25, but was not published until Nov. 30 due to an editing error. Dear Diane, I went up to Boston last weekend for the memorial service/celebration of Ted Sizer's life at Harvard's Memorial Church. Rituals can be wonderful things when we are facing the death of someone as important to us as Ted has been. Our shared respect for Ted is perhaps one of the reasons we embarked upon this blog. Ted has been a "bridge" between two often fiercely opposing camps that we have both been part of. He ...

Editor's note: This week, Bridging Differences will run on an altered holiday schedule and publish a piece by Deborah Meier on Wednesday. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ms. Meier's entry will be the only update to Bridging Differences this week. Bridging Differences will resume its regular Tuesday-Thursday schedule next week....

Let's Slow Down & Consider Our Path Carefully

Dear Diane, Someone calling himself "natturner" had a sharp reply to Jay Mathews' column on closing big high schools. Even though I was part of such an effort many years ago, and still brag about the results, I think natturner made a good rhetorical point in his comment on Mathews' blog: "Mr. Mathews, I just can't figure out why you confine your sagacity to just America's public education system. Your philosophy seems relevant in so many bigger ways. For instance, about a year ago the banking system collapsed, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it had failed. And ...

Obama and Duncan Are Wrong About Charters

Dear Deborah, The legislators who passed the Elementary and Secondary Act in 1965 repeatedly assured their colleagues and the American public that the federal government would never interfere with state and local control of schools. The purpose of the law was clear: To provide additional funding to the nation's neediest students. Of course, that vow did not preclude federal intervention to abolish racial segregation, because segregation was one of the sources of inequity and there was a Supreme Court decision requiring an end to state-sponsored segregation. Now, we see that the original promise has not only been forgotten, but broken. ...

Defining Achievement as More Than Test Scores

Dear Diane, The bad news does seem to overwhelm the good news of late. For starters, when talking about education, we need a new vocabulary. The term "achievement" has become synonymous not with the intellectual tasks of schooling, the "using one's mind well" as Ted Sizer put it, but with whatever is measured by multiple- choice tests. The more answers right the better—of course—but otherwise there's little of intellectual quality being measured. If it's "using one's mind well" that should be at stake, then one might imagine we need tests that rest on demonstrations of how students...

Obama's Vision for Education

Dear Deborah, I have been trying to ascertain what President Obama plans to do to reshape the federal role in education, and the outlines of his policy are becoming clear. So far, we have not heard much about what he will do to fix the No Child Left Behind approach, but the signs are not encouraging. One point is clear: He prefers charter schools to regular public schools. After his election, he first visited a charter school, not a regular public school. The day after the 2009 election, he and Secretary Arne Duncan visited the Wright Middle School in Madison, ...

Simplify Everything Else, Not Kids & Subject Matter

Dear Diane, The absurdities you describe are on the mark and ought to kill the idea of paying teachers based on their students' test scores. But we both know the idea won't die that easily. Even the most renowned of testing experts argue that we're nowhere near being able to produce tests that can do the job of pay-by-score that folks want. I do wonder at times what "they" think they are doing? The trouble is that when I start down that path I see conspiracies everywhere—for example, that these schemes justify hiring inexperienced and low-paid teachers—who can ...

Should Teacher Evaluation Depend on Student Test Scores?

Dear Deborah, What a lovely tribute to Ted Sizer! I did not know Ted nearly as well as you did, but I admired him very much. He was very much the gentleman, and truly a gentle man. I had many disagreements with Jerry Bracey over the years; he was not gentle at all. Nonetheless, it is sad that these two men will no longer be among us, as they were both completely independent, a quality that is in short supply these days. Which brings us back to the Obama agenda for education. Most educators are dubious about this agenda, but ...

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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